Q & A No. 9
Tentant VS. Tenant Complaint
Q: I have a four-unit apartment in the Elmwood, originally a large house, with hardwood floors in each unit. In the 10 years that we have owned it we have not had this problem come up. The downstairs tenant complains that the upstairs tenant walks so heavily that she cannot sleep and is constantly disturbed. I provided some pads for the area rugs and initially thought that the tenant was exaggerating the problem as the upstairs tenant is a small woman. However, I now witnessed the noise and confirmed that the upstairs tenant walks very heavily and rapidly back and forth and it is disturbing. I have reminded the downstairs tenant that this is an old house and there will always be some noise, but I feel the need to provide some respite. I would like to install wall-to-wall carpeting, but the upstairs tenant is adamant that she moved in to a unit with hardwood floors and wants it to stay that way. The rent board says I have the right to install wall-to-wall carpeting. Of course I realize that I cannot keep everyone happy, but I also don't want to create more problems for myself. Anyone have any suggestions?
A: Pack the two tenants off to Berkeley's (subsidized) mediation program, and offer to pay the small hourly fee for their participation. There, they can decide how to resolve the problem between the two of themselves, at their own cost. Have the landlord attend in order to help them each understand why this is THEIR problem, not the LLs. In particular, the upstairs neighbor needs to understand that she needs to make concessions, because the rent board says LL can put in carpeting, and in any event, if her behavior renders the lower unit less valuable, the LL might (maybe maybe maybe) have some recourse. Similarly, the downstairs neighbor isnít entitled to get the LL to re-insulate the house. Perhaps the word "nuisance" could be uttered. Mediation will help the two people pinpoint their problem, and come up with a creative solution, like not wearing shoes in the upstairs unit! How loud can she walk in slippers??? Maybe the lower unit person would pay to swap apartments? Just being creative...
Local Organizations Providing Assistance to Tenants and Landlords
East Bay Community Mediation
(formerly Berkeley Dispute Resolution Service)1968 San Pablo AvenueBerkeley, CA 94702 Telephone: 510-548-BDRS (2377)Fax: 510-548-4051 Internet: http://www.bdrs.orgHours: Monday - Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m Mediation, facilitation and training. Can schedule a mediation session within 7 to 10 business days of original call. $25 per session. (Sliding scale available)